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A Literary & Poetry Column
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Carolyn Names Books to Noble Fame

It is Nobel time again and Noble (Not Nobel) time as well. I am always surprised that I learn new names and new titles when the Nobel committee announces prizes for literature. How could I not know them?

I'm also always surprised at the names I know that do not get a nod from Nobel. And I'm often flabbergasted at the names and titles that are not even considered. It isn't only the Nobel that upsets me. I hate it that many deserving books receive no awards at all and because we are a culture that loves starshine, these books never garner the attention or readership they deserve.

Of course, it may be that the reason that so many of these fine writers are relatively unknown (including some of the Nobel winners) is that they write literary material. The other is that some publish with small presses or they subsidy- or self- publish. I believe that the publishing industry both knowingly and innocently discriminates against the latter and that readers (believing they know their own taste) discriminate against both. Both groups would be better served if everyone in a position to judge stretched themselves a bit. That includes authors themselves who often fear breaking the rules.

Thus my Noble (Not Nobel) was born five years ago. This award is not inclusive of every kind of writing. It is modeled on the Nobel in that I consider books that exhibit exceptional writing skills and explore the human condition. I want to honor work that entertains, certainly, but also offers something more to the publishing/reading community as a whole. The work may be flawed but it must make an effort to change readers or the publishing world in some way.

The following books are listed in no particular order. They are, Ta da! my suggestions for stretching -- beyond what we do in the gym.

Bruce Bauman's And the Word Was (Other Press, 2005). Nominated by Susan Henderson,
She says she nominated him for "spending an entire book grappling with the question of how you can accept that God exists when you consider Auschwitz and the other horrors of the world and of your life. Click on the cover to find this novel at
Carolyn Davidson's Redemption (HON Books--Harlequin). Nominated by Suzie Housley, Editor of the Have You Heard page for Occasionally genre fiction (in this case a historical romance set in Green Rapids, KA, 1880) crosses a line as fine as a pencil tracing. Houseley says, "With great pleasure this reviewer gives Redemption the highest marks she has ever attributed to any book she has reviewed." No doubt about it, this novel is written in a style one would expect from a romance, but there is more to a book than its genre. Click on the cover to find Redemption at
Robert Eggleton's e-book, Rarity from the Hollow (Fatcat Press). Nominated by Evelyn Somers, reviewer for the Missouri Review. Somers describes the book as "quirky" (see my comment on experimental above) and because it deals with "an ultra-convincing depiction of the lives, especially the inner lives, of the Appalachian characters' poverty, I, too, think it deserves a Noble. Click on the cover to download it at Fat Cat Press.
Dr. Bob Rich's biography, Anikó: The stranger who loved me (Anina's Book Company), is an Eppie award winner. I usually avoid giving the Noble (Not Nobel) to books that have already won a prize. My purpose is to bring attention to books that have received much less than they deserve. Anikó has, indeed, received less than it deserves even with that award hanging on its belt. A biography set in Hungary it is a book experimental, poetic and educational. A reader will feel more and know more for having read it. Americans can get it in electronic format at Click on the cover to go there.
Helen Losse's chapbook, Gathering the Broken Pieces #5 in the Poets on Peace series (Foothill Publishing). Covering subjects from slavery to the Iraqi war, Losse's poems let us reflect in a moment's reading on what is important. Click on the cover to find it at Foothills Publishing.
Nikki Arana's The Winds of Sonoma, (Revell) is a romantic story, a fictionalized version of the author's own experiences. After reading this book, some may see our migrant laborers in a new light. Click on the cover to find it a
Magdalena Ball's book of poetry, Quark Soup (Picaro Press, Warners Bay, Australia). What I loved about Soup is how the author pulls quark and quantum into the inner space of our lives. Click on the cover to find it, autographed, at: Compulsive Reader.
Marcus Harris's small book of poetry, Songs in Search of a Voice (Urban Echoes Entertainment, LLG). Here is the lost art of rhymed poetry done well. The poems -- sometimes light, sometimes somber -- transcend race, creed and gender. Click on the cover to find it at
Discover the Two Rivers Review's Poetry Chapbook Series. Published three volumes at a time, Ron Mohring's #5 volume along with Michael McFee's and Lynne Knight's poetry is exceptional. Your order at will support poets and the work this review journal does in publishing and sponsoring contests.
Anh Vu Sawyer and Pam Proctor's Song of Saigon (Warner Books). Subtitled One Woman's Journey to Freedom, this is a memoir. It tells, poignantly, of Sawyer's girlhood in Vietnam and her escape from that country in the 1970s. Click on the cover to find it at
Eve La Salle Caram's Rena, A Late Journey (Plain View Press, Austin, TX). This novel touches on a subject seldom explored in modern literature, aging. The author's language is as lovely in this as in her first, Dear Corpus Christi. Those interested in writing better would do well to study both. Click on the cover to find Rena at Plain View Press.
Nadia Brown's book of poetry Unscrambled Eggs (Publish America). This book touches lightly on poverty, aging, disappointment and, yes, joy. Click on the cover to find it at
Hugh Rosen's Silent Battlefields (iUniverse) is mainstream novel the moves easily between commercial necessities and the themes it explores. Rosen is a talented writer who will attract readers of the best literature by Jewish writers. May it find a broader audience. Click on the cover to find it at
Karen Degroot Carter's One Sister's Song (Pearl Street Publishing). How hard it is to live with others different from ourselves! Carter examines what might be the most difficult racial problem in today's society and does it sensitively, poetically. Click on the cover to find it at


Tips and Tidbits

Each month in this box, Carolyn lists a writing or promotion tidbit that will help authors and a tip to help readers find a treasure among long-neglected books or a sapphire among the newly-published.

Writers' Tidbit: Authors' Coalition offers an assortment of free e-books from members and others who are interested in helping writers. Find them on the free e-books page and check the other things the organization is doing to support authors -- members and nonmembers alike.

Readers' Tip: Do yourself a favor and introduce yourself to rereading. It's easy. Pick a book you read and loved when you were younger and read it again. Before you do, you might want to see what others got out of such an exercise. Farrar Straus Giroux just released Rereadings, edited by Anne Fadiman. My review of that book is available on

2007 Past Columns

Carolyn Names Books to Noble Fame

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